Cats are notoriously complex creatures, which is why their owners are often eager to find out more about how they behave and, crucially, how to earn their affections.
Of course it’s easier said than done but new research from Nottingham Trent University has found that the key to getting your cat’s heart might be the opposite of what you’ve always thought.
In fact, the study found that the secret is to simply let your cat choose when it wants to be stroked rather than you deciding you want to do it.
It found that when this advice was followed, cats were less likely to behave aggressively towards their owners and and were also more affectionate with them.
The team used the acronym CAT to describe their advice: provide the cat with choice and control [C], pay attention [A] to the cat’s behaviour and body language, and think about whereabouts they are touching [T] the cat.
The research was conducted by researchers monitoring participants’ interactions with 100 cats housed at Battersea’s London cattery.
Each participant engaged with with six cats in total, engaging with three before they received the CAT guidelines and three after.
One strategy identified for working out whether your cat was willing to be stroked was to offer it your hand and see whether or not it interacts with it, which, if they do want to be stroked, might manifest in the cat rubbing themselves against the hand.
If the cat chooses to move away, stops purring, starts grooming itself, or turns away, that might mean that the cat has had enough of your stroking and wants you to stop.
The study also looked at where cats prefer to be stroked, noting that most cats prefer being touched at the base of their ears, around their cheeks, and under their chin.
Dr Lauren Finka, who led the study, said: “The results demonstrate a clear preference amongst cats for a more ‘hands off’ approach to petting, which ultimately lets them call most of the shots.
“Cats are not necessarily known for being overly expressive when it comes to communicating how they are feeling.
“This can often cause issues during petting because many cats may feel a little uncomfortable at times, but this isn’t something that is always easy for us to pick up on.”
Battersea’s feline welfare manager JoAnna Puzzo, added: “While every cat has a wonderfully unique personality, they do often share fundamental similarities, as this new study shows.
“Cats can be incredibly subtle when expressing their likes and dislikes, and as a result their behaviour can be misunderstood or ignored completely.
“By using these new simple yet effective ‘Cat’ guidelines, owners will be able to better understand how their cat is feeling and adapt how they interact together to ensure their pet is happy and relaxed.”